PHOTO TECHNIQUE

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The Spread  / Alex Mustard – Anemonefish eggs

Anemonefish with eggs, taken with a Nikon D7100 and Tokina 10-17mm. Subal housing. Inon strobes. 1/80th @ f/14, ISO 250.

Anemonefish are great subjects, but so are anemonefish eggs and the parental behaviours that they evoke. Anemonefish can’t lay their eggs in their anemone, and must find a hard piece of substrate close to their home.

These are saddleback anemonefish that favour anemones growing out on open sand, making them dependant on finding a fist-sized hard object and dragging it close to home to nest on. Wily film-makers have exploited this to create sequences, stealing their chosen rock and providing new objects for them to investigate – not something I’d encourage.

One of my favourite shots to take of anemonefish is a high-magnification image of their eggs. Fill the frame with eggs and then shoot with your camera’s aperture much more open than usual, which will record a thin sliver of the eggs in focus surrounded by a dramatic bokeh of circles. This shot is most effective with eggs that are close to hatching, where the young have clearly developed eyes.

The clutch in this photo are about halfway through their development and need a couple more days for their eyes to be at their best.

Saddleback anemonefish are the best choice for this shot, because their eggs are more exposed than other species that tuck them into the reef. Although beware, this species can be very aggressive – especially in Indonesia, where they regularly bite!

For some reason in the Philippines, where I took this photo, the same species is much more placid.

Although this looks like a family portrait, none of these fish are likely to be related. The eggs, once they hatch, will drift off in the plankton and will grow up somewhere else.

Appeared in DIVER November 2019